Friday, September 21, 2012

Green Funerals 101

The publication of our book Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully, has opened the world of green funerals to us. Although our book doesn’t advocate for green funerals, it depicts our sister-in-law's home death, the decision not to embalm, a family-arranged cremation, and a family-directed wake and funeral.

A green funeral is one in which no embalming takes place and a body is buried without any toxic material being introduced to the earth, such as that found in standard metal and hardwood coffins, concrete burial vaults, and marble headstones. A whole movement has sprung up in the past decade that advocates an environmentally friendly way of handling people’s remains.

Becky and I have become more and more interested in eco-burial for ourselves, although at this point she would prefer some type of cremation—for herself and for me. Luckily, an alternative to clame-based fossil-fuel intensive cremation now is available in Minnesota.

One of the best, most comprehensive articles I’ve read on environmentally-friendly funerals was a 2008 piece in Cincinnati CityBeat. It included interviews with mourners, ministers, and funeral directors. The journalist even considers the circumstances of gay and lesbian couples, something I haven’t seen in other reports on green funerals.

I’ve quoted two paragraphs below to give a taste. The second paragraph echoes my brother Bill Manahan's foreword in Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond.

“Die the Way You Live: Befriending Death and Planning for the Inevitable” by Stephen Carter-Novotni

When local chiropractor Pamela Tickel´s husband Will passed away in 2006, she was convinced that he should be laid to rest in a way that honored their commitment to the environment and a natural lifestyle. Will, also a chiropractor, was buried without embalming or a vault at Ramsey Creek preserve in South Carolina, one of just a handful of green burial grounds in the U.S.

“When we had a home birth 25 years ago, people thought we were crazy, and now people are very accepting and interested,” Pamela says, explaining that even though green burial is foreign to most, her paradigm has shifted and contemporary burial practices seem odd to her now.


Reduce Carbon Footprint with “Flameless Cremation”

Minnesota is leading the way in “green cremation,” a flameless process of reducing a body to its basic elements using alkaline hydrolysis. The Mayo Clinic Medical School has been using hydrolysis in its body donor program for several years, but last month, the first commercial unit in the US was opened in Stillwater, MN.

For a Minneapolis Star Tribune article, see

For a KARE-11 TV story, see